MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Temple put a scare in another top team in the American Athletic Conference — this time the No. 22 Memphis Tigers.
It took overtime and a career night from Memphis freshman Austin Nichols for the Tigers to escape Saturday night with an 82-79 victory over the Owls.
Temple, which entered the game tied for last place in the conference, upset SMU 71-64 last Sunday and gave Memphis a tight game in the second half. Quenton DeCosey scored 23 for Temple, but missed a 3-pointer from the top of the key in the closing seconds as Memphis won its second straight and fifth in the last six.
"We had some miscues at the end and threw a couple of balls away. We also could have made a better decision on the last shot we had in regulation," Temple coach Fran Dunphy said of a missed jumper after the Owls got an offensive rebound. "We just forced it up there. Then, we had our chances in overtime to win."
Will Cummings led Temple (7-19, 2-12) with 24 points and six assists, while Dalton Pepper had 20 points.
"Temple has a trio of guards and they play free, and, I mean they played well," Memphis Michael Dixon said. "We were just fortunate to stop them when we needed to and come out with the win."
Shaq Goodwin led Memphis (21-6, 10-4 AAC) with 20 points — 18 of them after halftime — while Joe Jackson and Dixon had 12 apiece, Jackson adding eight assists.
Dixon's two free throws with 17.4 seconds remaining in overtime provided the final margin.
Nichols had 17 points, 12 rebounds and seven blocks. The rebounds and blocks were career-bests.
"He was terrific. He made some big plays," Memphis coach Josh Pastner said. "He had tough, hard-nosed rebounds. He was a very, very high-level guy. We're just a really, really good team when he can play like that."
There were three ties and nine lead changes in the game. The game was deadlocked at 74 at the end of regulation.
The teams exchanged baskets to start the overtime, but Pepper's was a 3-pointer that gave Temple a 77-76 lead.
From there, Jackson and Goodwin scored baskets to give Memphis a three-point lead. DeCosey scored inside with 31 seconds left, but Dixon's free throws with 17.4 remaining provided the final margin.
Memphis ended the game shooting 57 percent to only 41 percent for the Owls. But Temple stayed close with 3-point shooting in the second half.
"Temple hit some great shots in the second half," Pastner said. "I mean they hit some great 3-point shots."
Nichols was 7-of-11 shooting on the night, and provided the Tigers with key plays throughout the game.
"I was hitting some shots, getting some blocks, getting some rebounds, so I just kind of went with it," Nichols said.
Memphis held a 40-32 lead at halftime even though Cummings, who entered the game averaging 15.9, had 18 at the break, hitting 7 of 11 shots, including 2 of 3 outside the arc.
At one point, Cummings and Pepper had 23 of the Owls' first 26 points in the game. But Memphis had a 9-2 burst to grab an 11-point lead, its largest of the half.
Memphis kept the advantage between six and nine points in the early stages of the second half. DeCosey was keeping Temple close at that point, scoring 11 points before the 14-minute mark, including a trio of 3-pointers.
And Temple kept converting 3-pointers. When Pepper nailed the Owls' sixth of the half, Temple had erased Memphis' advantage.
A layup by Devontae Watson capped 11 straight points and a 65-61 Temple lead.
At that point, the game settled into a close affair with ties and lead changes.
The teams were tied at 74 after Pepper's 3-point play with 1:14 left, but neither team could score again in regulation.
"Hey, win 21, and there's no such thing as a bad win," Pastner said.